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Monday, August 13, 2012

Why Romney Picked Ryan -- A Dumb Guy Told Him To

Bill Kristol pretends to think
I suppose I have to write the obligatory Paul Ryan post. The good news about that is that there's a lot to talk about with Ryan. The bad news is that everyone's saying it. The worse news is that a lot of pundits are trying to come up with new, clever things to say about Ryan and down that road lies idiocy. I was resigned to repeating (and hopefully clarifying) some of the unstupid things pundits were saying -- a not very fun post to start the week.

And then I saw this:


Once again, Bill Kristol gets his way — and once again, watch out.

For two consecutive presidential cycles now, the founding editor of the Weekly Standard has successfully led the conservative media drumbeat for a bold vice presidential pick: In 2008, he fervently supported and promoted Sarah Palin for months before the country even knew her name. In 2012, he urged Mitt Romney to “go for the gold” with Paul Ryan.

For a generation, stretching back to the 1980s, Kristol has used his influence to goad Republicans to be bolder and more ambitious — and riskier, for themselves, the Republican Party, and the nation—in their decisions. This extends beyond political calculation to policy. In 2003, Kristol was at the forefront of the lobbying effort for the Iraq war, which — however history judges it — cost far more in blood and treasure than he and his fellow neoconservatives had anticipated.


There are really only two questions when dealing with Bill Kristol; why do conservatives keep listening to him when he has such an awful, awful track record and how can a man with such an awful, awful track record get conservatives to listen to him? It's a stumper I've been scratching my head over for years. Still, no wonder John McCain called Ryan a "bold choice" -- he made a similar choice at the behest of the same brainiac with disastrous results.

Part of the reason why Romney might've listened to Kristol is the same reason that McCain did -- sheer, animal panic. Both races have been close (Romney's is closer), but the Republicans have always been looking at Obama's back. When you've tried everything sane and you're still looking at the frontrunner's backside, stupid things start to seem tempting.

And there's evidence to support my theory that Ryan was a panic choice.


Mitt Romney appears to have picked Paul Ryan as his running mate over the objections of top political advisors, offering a glimpse at the leadership style of the Republican nominee in the most important decision of his campaign.

Romney's aides have stressed publicly in the 24 hours since Romney electrified conservatives with his choice that the pick was the governor's alone. They have been less forthcoming on the flip side: That much of his staff opposed the choice for the same reason that many pundits considered it unlikely — that Ryan's appealingly wonky public image and a personality Romney finds copasetic will matter far less than two different budget plans whose details the campaign now effectively owns.

"Everybody was against [Ryan] to start with only Romney for," said one top Republican, who is skeptical of the choice and griped that Romney's top advisors have "been giving Mitt everything he wanted in this campaign."

When everything's going great, you don't make anything but the safe choice. There's no reason to take a risk. When things aren't going so hot, then you find yourself making the "bold" choice -- which is, more often than not, a reaction to your situation. And reacting to your situation is a trap that's hard to escape, once you've fallen into it. Anyone who's played any sort of strategy game knows this. You're too busy patching holes to see any progress. You're delaying the checkmate, in hopes that your opponent will make a mistake that saves you.

The thing is, listening to Wrongway Kristol probably isn't delaying the checkmate, so much as hastening it. Romney may get a post-Ryan bounce in the polls -- he may even overtake Obama for a second or two -- but a bounce is all it will be, as it's slowly revealed that the choice of Paul Ryan just confirms all the stuff voters hated about Romney in the first place.


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